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(en) Freedom 6324 Dec. 14, 2002 - Key win in Norway case

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 13 Jan 2003 09:35:33 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

The morning was freezing but bright and sunny as we cycled
to Trondheim's law courts on 26th November. A cyclist was
on trial, following a Critical Mass ride in the city on 21st
September. Inside the court, everything was still. The players
were a three-judge panel (one permanent judge and two lay
judges drawn from the community), the police lawyer, one
witness for the prosecution (a police officer), the cyclist
himself and nine witnesses for the defence. All the witnesses
for the defence were present in court, but the cyclist wasn't
allowed to call any of them.
In the end, the cyclist won, even though he'd been denied his
rights to representation and to call witnesses. The trial lasted
four hours and the verdict was given in the afternoon. He was
found not guilty on two out of the three charges made against
him. On the first charge, of resisting arrest, the court found
that passive non-reaction to arrest (going limp) wasn't the
same as resisting it. This set a precedent, of course, in a legal
debate that's been discussed for years.
The second charge, of carrying a dangerous weapon, was
important for the following reason. The cyclist had in his
possession a 'Leatherman', a multi-purpose tool handy for
bicycle repair. Carrying it isn't illegal except under certain
circumstances. One of these circumstances (here's the
important part) is on a demonstration. The legal argument
then centred (you guessed it) on whether a Critical Mass is or
isn't a demonstration.
The police lawyer went all out on this one. By finding the
cyclist not guilty, the court in effect declared that Critical
Mass isn't a demo and is, therefore, legal. In fact, it was
labelled a 'congregation' both in the court's papers and in its
verdict. This choice of wording may just sound like legal
jargon, but it'll have an extremely important and positive
impact on the treatment of riders who take part in future
Critical Mass rides (or congregations).
So, the cyclist was cleared on two out of three charges. On
the third count, of failing to identify himself when asked to do
so by police, he was fined just 2,000 kroner. The court
refused to levy costs against him, and he'll get his
Leatherman back. In addition, neutral reaction to arrest isn't
resistance and Critical Mass rides are now legal in
Trondheim. The court's decisions throughout were
unanimous. The police have appealed against the verdict.
Central to this is their outrage that Critical Masses can now
ride legally. They're insisting that a Mass really is a
demonstration after all.

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